A three-year veteran of the Student Association Senate launched a bid for the SA’s top post Thursday.
Sen. Imani Ross, U-at Large, a junior from Philadelphia, said her campaign will focus on three key issues – access, community and transparency. Ross, the chairwoman of the student life committee, is running on a platform with more than 10 main goals, including implementing mandatory cultural competency courses, renovating the third-floor terrace of the Marvin Center and creating a freshman housing system where students with similar interests live on the same floor.
“In those past three years, I’ve gotten to learn a lot, and now I want to apply what I’ve been learning to my community because I feel like my community is very underrepresented in the governing process,” Ross said.
If elected, Ross would be the first black female president of the SA.
She said she has spoken with administrators like Tim Miller, the associate dean of students, in the past few weeks about her plans and that her SA experience has allowed her to build a rapport with officials that would help her roll out projects quickly.
Ross emerged as a leader in the recent student response to a racist Snapchat post that spurred campus-wide conversation about racism and diversity. She introduced a resolution calling for the removal of the sorority Alpha Phi and a host of other measures to improve campus life for students of color.
Ross said if elected, she would seek to implement a general education requirement, mandating that all students take a course like Race and Racism or Women in Politics.
“It is sad to know some students don’t get to interact that way or have those productive dialogues without feeling like it’ll affect their student experience,” she said. “But it’s really important you have those dialogues. Why not do it in a healthy and productive academic setting?”
She said she would also work with administrators to create councils on diversity and sustainability – where student leaders can speak regularly with adminstrators on issues they are passionate about.
Ross is also seeking to eliminate “unnecessary” financial holds on student accounts, including restrictions on obtaining transcripts, which can prevent students from applying to jobs, scholarships and grants. Currently, students can be prevented from getting a transcript or registering for classes if they haven’t met requirements to visit an academic adviser or if they owe money to the University.
“If you think about it, you paid for those classes – that’s why you ended up getting a grade in the first place, because you were able to register and take the course – so you shouldn’t be penalized just because you have a financial burden,” Ross said.
Ross is also seeking to create a housing program that would place freshmen on the same residence hall floor as other students with similar values and hobbies, but would still allow them to request roommates. She said the program would expand the process used to determine freshman roommates to allow students to live on the same floor as peers with similar interests or ideals.
“What we’re trying to do is highlight what people like to do and see if they can build community based off what they like,” she said. “It’s a jumpstart to increasing diversity and inclusion as well as getting to know people.”
She hopes to pilot the program with freshmen and if it proves to be successful, upperclassmen could opt into it, Ross said.
Ross said she also hopes to remodel and create an outdoor rooftop garden on the Marvin Center third-floor terrace, which past presidential candidates have advocated in previous years. She said she spoke with Miller and University President Thomas LeBlanc about revamping the space, and both were interested in the idea.
“I want to also make it kind of kid-friendly,” she said. “There’s a lot of grad students here that don’t have family space, and they have families, they have wives and kids and husbands and children, and so I also want to give them a space where, when they come to campus, they can bring their family.”
She added that she hopes to create a resource handbook for incoming freshmen, specific to their school or college, that will include contact information for specific administrators and information about budgeting for the meal plans.
“I think the biggest issue with our community is that there is miscommunication within the community, and a lot of incoming freshmen are super excited to come here, but they’re only given small details about what the GW experience is about,” she said.
Concentrating on transparency, Ross said she wants to press administrators to be more open with the community by implementing a biannual “State of GW Address.” The address would include updates from the University president, the leaders of the Board of Trustees and the Faculty Senate and the president of the Student Association.
These officials all currently give updates three times a year during Board of Trustees meetings.
“This will be a way that all of us as students can get a clear idea of what GW is doing as a whole and also holding us accountable,” Ross said. “When you know that you have to eventually confront students, you tend to move a lot differently, when you have to have that productive confrontation.”
Cayla Harris, Kathryn Kline, Amber Mirza and Johnny Morreale contributed reporting.